US military tests Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system in Guam

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An interceptor is launched from an Iron Dome missile defense system at White Sands Missile Range, NM, in this undated photo posted online by the U.S. Military. (Darrell Ames / US Army)

The U.S. military deployed Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system in Guam until November to assess how well the battery can be integrated with existing Pacific Island defenses.

The system arrived in Guam this week via commercial shipping and arrived last week, Captain Nicholas Chopp, spokesman for the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, told Stars and Stripes on Thursday.

“It’s an entire battery – the radar system, the control center, and the launchers,” said Chopp from the 94th headquarters at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

Soldiers from the 2-43 Air Defense Artillery Battalion from Fort Bliss, Texas, arrived in Guam several weeks ago and are leading the system, he said.

No live fire operations are planned during the temporary deployment, Chopp said.

The Iron Dome Battery in Guam is one of two the military purchased last year. The pair cost $ 373 million, part of the $ 1.6 billion the United States has pumped into the program since 2011, according to a May report from the Bloomberg news service. Israel-based Rafael Advanced Defense Systems developed the system, which U.S. defense contractor Raytheon began co-producing in 2014, according to Bloomberg.

Congress in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019 required the system to be deployed in an operational theater before the end of 2021, Chopp said.

Congress mandated the purchase of two Iron Dome batteries as an interim measure until the military develops a long-term solution to the threats from missiles, rockets, drones and mortars.

The test battery was set up in an isolated jungle in the northwestern part of Andersen Air Base. It sits near the Terminal High Altitude Area anti-ballistic missile defense system, or THAAD, which the military has been operating in Guam since 2013.

Iron Dome is designed to protect ground troops by destroying short range missiles and drones. It complements the THAAD, which intercepts short and medium range ballistic missiles in their final descending phase.

The system has shot down more than 1,500 targets with a success rate of over 90%, according to the Raytheon Missiles & Defense website. Israel has successfully used the Iron Dome on several occasions during the conflicts in Gaza.

The Army first tested the system in August at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, where it “successfully engaged eight alternative cruise missile targets,” the military said in an August 23 press release.

“The Army Department identified Guam as the location they wanted to send the system to for testing, which is why the 94th is responsible for this mission,” Chopp said.

The Guam trial has three parts, he said.

The first is the deployability test, determining how easily and how to get it where it’s needed, he said. The Missile Defense Command wants to know if the battery can be flown back to the United States, Chopp said.

Second, a better understanding of the logistics required to support the system when it is deployed.

“Do we have the right soldiers assigned? ” he said. “Do we have the right numbers for how much fuel we will need? “

Third, the military wants to see how Iron Dome fits into the THAAD unit.

“Are we able to integrate it into the THAAD architecture to make it work towards a more layered defense?” ” he said.

Wyatt olson



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